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Showing posts from 2008

What Are We Doing Wrong with Biofuels?

My friend sent me this article on how biofuels are responsible for a 75% increase in world food prices. index.php/Politics/Biofuels- Are-Starving-Us My response: This is what happens when you live in denial for 100 years, and establish an infrastructure around a fuel source that doesn't really "exist" (the sun is the only "real" energy source we have, but that's another discussion). When it starts to run out, everything destabilizes, which is what we are seeing. The obvious choice, which is not always the best choice, is to look for the most accessible, drop-in renewable alternative . What are doing wrong with biofuels? 1. We're making the wrong fuels. Ethanol has been the biofuel of choice by many, which is a ridiculous fuel. It takes a lot of energy to distill it, and the resulting fuel has a miserable energy density. There are far better ways to get fuel from plants, unfortunately most are not usable by gasoline cars (s

VW Bluemotion Golf for 2009

What do you get when you combine the winning combination of a smaller (1.6L) common-rail turbodiesel engine with a revised ratio 5 speed transmission, and a particulate filter? 74 MPG, and only 99g/km of CO2, thanks to the 2009 VW Golf Bluemotion . This car still has 104 HP (184lb/ft), which is more torque than some gas compact cars have now- and you can bet that those numbers will all but double with a few basic fuel and air mods. In terms of mileage and emissions, this car puts some hybrids to shame- yet with its simplistic design, it will remain much more affordable (£15,500 starting) than cars with complicated hybrid technology. There is no word as to when this car will be brought to the U.S. (as usual), especially with oil prices dropping again, but at least we can have the comfort of knowing it's out there.

Got a Small Car? Drive Carefully.

If you are the owner of a small, fuel efficient vehicle, here's something you may not have thought about. If you are involved in an accident that ends up totaling your car, you may not get enough insurance money to replace it. Here's why: When the insurance company "totals" your car (decides it's cheaper to replace it than repair it), they will cut a check for the Blue Book value of the car. But, as the demand for these cars continues to rapidly increase, so does the "street" value (the amount the car is selling for today, on Ebay, for example). Since the Blue Book value of these cars is assessed using a fairly bureaucratic process , this value hasn't been calculated recently enough, and is therefore under the actual cost involved in acquiring an exact replacement. Cost is only the beginning. The headaches of purchasing a fuel efficient vehicle are many- if you are in the market for a new car, you'll probably end up on a waiting list . When

Got a Samsung SCH-i760? Don't use an external antenna!

If you have a Samsung smartphone, such as the SCH-i730 or SCH-i760, you may or may not be aware that there is an external antenna jack on the back of this phone (you have to pop off a small round cap to see it). It is possible to use this jack to plug in an external cell phone antenna - an incredibly convenient option for road warriors who can't afford to drop calls when traveling through spotty areas, etc. However, I have this cautionary tale to share with you. This is the 3rd time I have had my cell phone replaced because the internal antenna performance degrade to almost nothing. It started with my Samsung SCH-i730, and then when I upgraded to the SCH-i760, it happened twice. I have decided that the issue is likely one of the following: 1. Samsung makes a flaky and weak connector, which breaks the internal antenna connection when used (doesn't really make sense, as the external antenna still works) 2. I have been unlucky enough to get 3 defective phones (yeah, right.) 3.

GM Decides to Use Radical "Turbo" Technology to Make Fuel Efficient Car

GM has always answered the call for more horsepower by trying to find ways to shoehorn bigger engines in their large cars and trucks. For some reason, this wasteful practice has made Americans happy, as long as the fuel prices were low. However, now that its pickup and SUV sales have been obscured by a new demand for fuel efficient cars, GM finally has decided that it might be a good idea to give Americans a 120-140 horsepower vehicle, that still gets over 40 mpg! Why wasn't this vehicle developed when gas was $2.00 something a gallon, and had every indication that there was no end in sight? Heck, why hasn't this vehicle existed for years as an American car choice? Because the technology didn't exist? Wrong. Consumers of foreign manufactured autos have enjoyed lightweight, fuel efficient, and fast sport compact cars for years. How do they do it? Turbochargers: They have been in use for over 80 years . By forcing air into the engine, power output can be significantly r

Electric cars coming to the rescue in 2 years or less (No thanks to America)

Foreign auto manufacturers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi have responded to high oil prices by making small, 100% electric cars, slated for release in Japan (and even the U.S., in Nissan's case) by 2010. Mitsubishi Announces Electric Car for 2010 Nissan Announces Electric Car for 2010 GM has responded to high oil prices by closing 4 plants, laying off 30,000 workers , and leaving dealerships all over the nation to try to sell the Chevy Volt hybrid, with a $40,000 price tag . Reportedly, the Th!nk City EV, now owned by a Norwegian company, will be coming back to the U.S in 2009 . The car was originally developed by Ford, and dumped as part of its 2002 total abandonment of the electric car venture .

The Prius - Now Getting (your favorite number of) Miles Per Gallon!

The other night, a friend asked me what I would do to make a car that got 100-something miles per gallon. This is a perfect example of how that question can be answered in a number of ways. This Prius has been outfitted with new technology LiFePO4 batteries, and has been recorded achieving 125+ mpg. Having better batteries means it can use more stored power before having to run the engine. While this is an improvement in city driving, on the highway commute this vehicle will be right back to 40mpg. Even the best batteries will be exhausted fairly quickly and the engine will end up running for the remainder of the trip. Claims that the Prius achieves 499 MPG could be made just as easily and accurately if they measured the mileage on 1 mile test drive on a totally flat road, with no engine start or braking occurring. As far as I know, there is still no standard course for measuring these claims, and most of the time, no one understands the sc

Bob Lutz: Leading the American Race for Capitalist Gluttony

Have you ever wondered exactly how America gets its reputation for driving oversized vehicles without any regard for the environment or fuel costs? Because people like Bob Lutz are behind the wheel of the largest American motor company: GM. We all know that GM is company that's as "American as apple pie." Here's a timeline of events for you. 2004: Bob Lutz thinks that Hybrid cars make no sense. Quote: "Hybrids are an interesting curiosity and we will do some," he said. "But do they make sense at $1.50 a gallon? No, they do not." Understanding interaction between national and global economy: FAIL Effectiveness at developing strategies that look more than 1-2 years out : FAIL 2005-2007: GM continues to bring products to market that it thinks will be good for America. This includes pukemobiles such as: The Chevy Suburban 2WD Z71 GMC Envoy Denali/Envoy XL Denali. The Chevy TrailBlazer EXT *and don't forget* The Hummer H3 They are shoved in the

Why iTunes Sucks: Reason #22

Alternative posting title - iTunes and Sucking in Harmony This is in reference to of a (very dated) Mac Observer posting 21 Reasons Why iTunes Sucks . iTunes is continuing a long standing tradition of sucking! As I mentioned in a previous posting, I have had dealings with . I gave my wife a gift certificate for, proud of myself for my having a gift that pleased to her affinity for books on CD. However, what I didn't realize was that I was really giving her a gift of PAIN. We figured (naively) that this day and age, it would be a fairly common, and therefore simple(!) process - choose an audio book on, and burn it to CD, so she could enjoy the book in her car. Seems like a reasonable request, based on the following assumptions: Most people use audio books during their commute. Most cars, last I checked, come "standardly" equipped with CD players, unless you get some kind of "option" I haven't checked on

Golf Diesel Hybrid for Everyone Except Us

As usual, some new, cool car technology is being developed which the U.S. will likely be (at best) the last to take advantage of. This time it's a diesel hybrid by VW. The diesel hybrid is not a new concept, but this will be one of the first production cars to incorporate it. The fact is, diesel cars are awesome in so many ways. They are powerful, efficient, clean, and can be run on 100% renewable fuel with ZERO modification. Many other countries have embraced diesel vehicles. So why do they have such a hard time in the U.S.? They are perceived by most to be "loud and smelly," to quote the Wired article. I will add that from my observations, people think they are dirty and underpowered. Now let's do some myth busting, shall we? Myth: Diesels cars are Loud Fact: Diesel trucks are loud. Old diesel anythings were often loud. My diesel is loud (since I riced out my exhaust system). But "Diesels" are not loud, at least not significantly louder than

Want to cancel your membership? You'll have to call them

It all started when I got my wife a gift certificate to for Christmas. So I'm not really sure how it happened, but at some point in the last few months, I ended up with a premium audible listener membership, billed at a rate of $23 a month. I suppose it's possible that I did an impulse purchase, but that's neither here nor there in this discussion. I finally got logged in to the point where I could edit my account details (long story, but basically I had to clear my cookies due to the fact that it kept dumping me right back to the step of "confirming a purchase" I had apparently started - months later). In the account details control panel: There didn't appear to be any way to cancel my membership. There didn't appear to be any way to remove my credit card information from my account. After I pretty much resolved and mentally prepared for the fact this was going to involve a phone call (which to me instantly involves long hold times with bad

Fix for X-Lite -> Asterisk DTMF issue

If you use X-Lite with an Asterisk system, as I do, you may notice DTMF codes sometimes don't work after the call has been placed. This results in difficulty when entering pin codes, dialing an extension on another system, etc. Here's the quick fix inside X-Lite: Go to menu -> Advanced System Settings -> DTMF Settings -Change to DTMF Force Send In Band: Yes -Change to DTMF Tone Length in Samples: 4960 Reconnect the call and try it.

Welcome From FreshUbuntu Podcast

Just wanted to post a shout out to anyone visiting from the FreshUbuntu podcast! As Harlem mentioned, I have been working on putting together some theme music. The first track I sent over was actually a draft of the title track that will be on my upcoming demo album, called "6 Inches From the Curb". Most of the music on that album will be original jazz and funk, and will feature "solo bass" work (to be clear, solo in the sense that the tracks are predominantly drums and bass guitar, with little or no other instruments). My goal for this demo is to practice my new skills with multitrack production, and to demonstrate my musical concepts to musicians I will collaborate with on future projects (stay tuned!) The tune was a little rough - I have decided to put together something more reflective of my skills, and more specific to podcast use. Tune into the next FreshUbuntu to hear it!

Rant on G-mail's Supposed "Send Mail As" Feature

Gmail: In development for over 4.109578 years (and counting) Despite my having sworn off third-party e-mail providers, I broke down and moved my e-mail account to Gmail recently. I was under the impression I could make the transition without anyone noticing that I was even using Gmail. I set up my personal address to forward to my Gmail account, and then set up the Gmail "Send Mail As" feature to send mail from my personal address. As many users have found out, this is not as seamless as Google makes it out to be. This has been bothering me as well. Gmail doesn't change the sender address, only the reply-to address. Apparently this is because mail coming from a Gmail server (and thus being different from the sender domain) has a tendency to trip spam filters. I did find this note at the bottom of the Gmail instructions: " Note: when you're sending with a different 'From:' address, your Gmail address will still be included in your email header's

My Godaddy Hosting Cancellation Survey

When I cancelled my Godaddy Virtual Server, they asked me to fill out a cancellation survey. Here's what I wrote: 1. I had my virtual server with godaddy for several years. The whole time, the machine suffered from lag. This was evident as a delay when serving web pages, using Plesk to administer the machine, and severe (at times up to 20 seconds) latency when typing over SSH. I opened a ticket about this and was told it must be my connection. Apparently it wasn't, as the new service I am using doesn't have this problem. 2. SMTP - The godaddy mail relays are constantly DNS blacklisted because many of the servers are being used to send spam. I opened a ticket about this and no one got back to me. Can't really blame them. 3. While Plesk made administration easy, it was extremely slow and prevented me from being able to install other programs or keep the machine up to date with package tools, such as yum. 4. There is no OS upgrade path without having to reprovision t